The Presidential Air Fleet (PAF) says it is in debt to service providers due to low budgetary allocations to it over the years to fund its operation.
The Commandant of the PAF, Abubakar Abdulahi, stated this on Thursday during an oversight visit by the House of Representatives Committee on National Security and Intelligence to its base in Abuja.
Mr Abdulahi, who was represented by the Fleet Operational Officer, Ahmed Dari, said PAF has been getting budget cuts that have affected its ability to service its obligations.
He stated that the fleet submitted a total budget of N18,767,393,235 but only N12,550,18,732 was approved in the Appropriation Act, while N10,907,642,492 was released as of December 2021.
Mr Dari added that in 2022, the fleet proposed the sum of N19,479,313,645, but N12,476,607,142 was finally approved.
He informed the committee that a large percentage of its cost is for the maintenance of the aircraft in the fleet.
“Please note that the shortfall in the overhead cost usually affects aircraft maintenance activities in the fleet. The inadequacy of this provision was brought to the attention of the respected committee as it has always been during the budget defence and oversight visit.
“I wish to bring to your attention that aircraft maintenance which accounts for 46 per cent of the overall budget proposal is an integral part of the overhead cost.
“Consequently, the shortfall of the overhead greatly affected aircraft maintenance activities in the fleet. Some mandatory upgrades were carried out on a credit basis on the fleet’s longstanding relationship with maintenance companies while others have been moved to the year 2023 budget,” he said.
The officer explained further that “debts from preceding years are usually carried over to the following year and this has become the tradition.
“Permit me to also state that most of these debts are owed by service providers overseas. Considering that over 85 per cent of the fleet expenditure is forex, the actual budget figure in dollars is further diminished.
“It is important to note that the average age of the presidential air fleet aircraft is 11 years and in aviation, maintenance increases proportionately with the age of the aircraft. Based on the fleet experience, the cost of maintaining each aircraft ranges between $1.5 million to $4.5 million depending on the level of maintenance.”
Mr Dari informed the Committee that in 2023, the fleet is expected to make more trips due to elections.
“Additionally, the year 2023 is an election year which translates to more missions and space requests for the aircraft due to increased usage,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of the committee, Sha’aban Sharada (ADP, Kano), its chairman, commended the fleet for carrying out its activities effectively.
He said, “the committee will do what it can to assist the fleet in addressing these challenges.”
There have been controversies around the Presidential Air Fleet in the recent past.
In 2015, when President Muhammadu Buhari came on board, he promised Nigerians his administration would cut down on the number of aircraft (on the PAF) inherited from former President Goodluck Jonathan.
According to the government, there were 10 aircraft in the fleet. They included two each of Augusta 149, Augusta 101 and Falcon 7X, as well as one each of HS 4000, G500, G550 and 737 BBJ series.
There was an attempt in the past by this administration to sell two of the aircraft – a Falcon 7X executive jet and Hawker 4000.Follow us on social media